A thesis on the eScholarship editions website analysing the role of traditional Rajput women suggests courtly decorum for young girls in the family: they are not allowed to laugh or speak loudly, and spontaneity is discouraged. Enter Meera Singh Rathore, a 24-year-old Rajput girl who when asked to describe herself in one word, says: "LOUD."
It's hard to disagree. Rathore is anything but a traditional Rajput woman veiled in a purda of modesty. With gold and copper highlights shimmering in her hair and heavy kohl-lidded eyes sparkling beneath funky spectacle frames, Rathore is accessorised with trendy trinkets and a spunky attitude.
But don't mistake her for a Rajput rebel without a cause. She is a highly successful, highly paid and highly respected senior hairstylist in one of the city's hippest salons: Juice.
Born in Mumbai and bred in Doha, Rathore was re-born in Mumbai as a hairstylist when she enrolled at Juice academy to train under the adept hands of Adhuna Akhtar. "I always wanted to do hair and makeup because I was surrounded by beautiful Middle Eastern women who took great care of their appearances." Never quite interested in academics, Rathore began working as an assistant in Juice at the age of seventeen. "I was a shadow to my senior. I did 40-50 shampoos a day, swept hair off the floor and washed the basins for a basic monthly salary of Rs 5,000."
Practising haircuts on various "guinea pigs", Rathore perfected her skills to be put on the floor when she was 19 earning Rs 20,000 a month. By her own admission, she is "always caked in makeup", which is why she undertook training from renowned makeup artist Marvie Beck.
After a two-week advanced hairstyle course from Vidal Sassoon in Los Angeles, Rathore was promoted to senior stylist at Juice last year.
But with the fun, money and fame, came the occupational hazards of a profession that requires you to stand on your feet for 12 hours straight. "I suffered from cervical spondylitis a few years ago. You have to be physically fit to be a good hairstylist," she said.
But even with eight or nine clients a day, appointments booked for weeks, back-to-back training sessions and a sensitive back, this zealous and zany 24-year-old is hungry for more.
Which is why, in her spare time (whatever little she has of it), Rathore freelances for fashion shows and film shoots. "One can never know enough in this profession," she said. "I want to learn advanced prosthetic make up, hair extensions, bridal and film make up so I can travel around the world for shoots and shows."
Her face lit up when she recalled the most memorable experience of her career. "Along with another person, I did the make up and hair of 40 Caucasian models for a TIGI fashion show in Dubai. They were all professional ramp models and it was an exciting and enriching experience." She has also travelled to Malaysia to style for the movie Kuch Meetha Ho Jaaye and has celebrities like television actress Ruby Bhatia, model-turned-actors Shawar Ali and Upen Patel and pop sensation Jay Sean and the Indian idols in her repertoire of clients.
Earning a combined monthly income of nearly Rs 80,000, Rathore was born for this profession and vice versa. "A salon has a really cool and creative vibe and the atmosphere is youthful and fun. Hairstyling allows you to express your individuality."
Indeed, Rathore has a whole lot of individuality to express. "I love wearing loud, heavy eye makeup and plenty of accessories. We don't have a uniform dress code at the salon, so we have the freedom to wear clothes that define our personality and attitude."
That's not all. She changes her look every month, so much so that her clients fail to recognize her! "I change my hair according to my frame of mind. Once I coloured it a vibrant red after watching Run Lola Run. Another time it was blonde in front and copper at the back when I was in my Ginger Spice phase." Presently, she claims she is in her " most sober phase".
How does she relax? With coffee and colleagues in the mini-garden of the Khar salon or catching a movie or a drink after work. Her reading habits? Books on Osho and Middle Eastern women.
"I am happy with where I am right now. My parents are proud that I am financially independent at this age." Like all hairstylists worth their mettle, Rathore too dreams of having her own salon one day. "But I want to be doing so much more than that," she said. "I want to be all over the place." With flaming hair, jingling beads and catty eyes intact of course.